Jason Bateman: Childhood Stardom Led to Substance Abuse
After he landing his first regular role on “Little House on the Prairie” in 1981 at age 11, he spent the next decade on the sets of “Silver Spoons,” “It’s Your Move,” “Valerie/Valerie’s Family/The Hogan Family,” and several TV movies in between.
"It was like ‘Risky Business’ for 10 years," Bateman says of the 90s. "My parents were out of town, they left me a bunch of money, the car, and the house, and I didn't know when they were coming home. I'd worked so hard that by the time I was 20, I wanted to play hard. And I did that really well."
He describes himself as aspiring to be a “25-year-old obnoxious drunk with a beak full of schnitz all night,” and said he had anxiety about making sure the rest of his life wasn’t anticlimactic. “Starting at age 10, my personality and my identity all stemmed from employment. I had a set to be at. I was a certain way with the cameraman, a certain way with the makeup lady—a normal, routine environment. When that went away and I didn’t have that infrastructure, I had to start over.”
By 2001, when he married Paul Anka’s daughter Amanda, whom he had known since he was 18, he said he had sewn every conceivable oat without landing in the tabloids. He rededicated himself to looking for work, but still succumbed to the occasional “Risky Business” moment.
When he came home late one night after about a year of marriage, Amanda, who had lost previous boyfriends to overdoses, demanded that he quit partying altogether. When he failed to do so, she left for their planned Mexico vacation without him. Alone on Christmas day and wondering if his marriage would survive, Bateman ran into a friend who had recently gotten sober and followed him to an AA meeting.
Of his drug use, he said: "Booze was what would make me want to stay out all night and do some blow or smoke a joint or whatever, so shutting that off was key. It's like ketchup and French fries—I don't want one without the other. So that's the moment: Do you want to continue being great at being in your twenties, or do you want to step up and graduate into adulthood?"
Now his only addiction is baseball—when he’s not working, he’s playing in a fantasy league with close friend Keith Olbermann. “We go to Dodgers games and he spends the entire time keeping score, not saying a word,” Bateman says. “It’s perfect.”
This year, Bateman will be headlining Mike Judge’s “Extract” as the boozy, pill-popping, sexually frustrated owner-operator of a small flavor-extract factory. He’ll also been seen in Couples Retreat,” where he and Vince Vaughn share starring credits; “The Invention of Lying” with Jonah Hill and his “Juno” costar Jennifer Garner; and “Up in the Air,” where he stars opposite George Clooney. In 2010, he’ll share starring credits with Jennifer Aniston in “The Baster,” as well as reprise his role as Michael Bluth in the “Arrested Development” movie.
Bateman also hopes to start directing again (at 18, he directed an episode of The Hogan Family and became the youngest member of the DGA); he’s developing two projects and says he hopes to have a production deal within the year.
As for his family life, Bateman and Anka now have a 2 ½-year-old daughter, Francesca.